Wednesday, February 28, 2024

DiGiCo’s S31 Hits the Bullseye at Target Center

Target Center is one of Minneapolis’ leading indoor venues, and in a city that gets over 50 inches of snow every year and has an average low temperature of 8°F in January, ‘indoor’ is a meaningful word. Opened in 1990, the 20,500-capacity arena is home to the NBA’s Timberwolves and WNBA’s Lynx, but also regularly hosts many other events, including concerts that in the past have included Taylor Swift, Garth Brooks, and, of course, ultimate hometown hero Prince.

Target Center is now also home to a DiGiCo S31 console at front of house, installed there last fall by Windy Shores Sound. Its arrival concludes an extended sound system upgrade that began five years ago with the installation of an L-Acoustics Kara PA system. As is often the case with city-owned facilities, the arena has the usual municipal bureaucratic issues around budgets, and it took some time for other elements of the venue’s audio to catch up.

“They upgraded the PA system but much of the infrastructure around it was left in place,” recalls Matt Guzy, Vice President of Sales and Engineering at Windy Shores Sound. “Herbie Woodruff, who was their house technician, crew chief, and sound engineer at the time, had to work with an almost-20-year-old console that, like most of the rest of the infrastructure and cabling, was still analogue and increasingly unreliable. At one point, Herbie said, ‘It’s time.’ And it was. We recommended the DiGiCo S31. It has the I/O, the power, and the processing needed for a major venue like Target Center.”

The new 48-channel S31, which offers 31 physical faders and three 10-inch multitouch screens, plus state-of-the-art FPGA technology, is fitted with a DMI-DANTE interface card and accompanied by a DiGiCo D-Rack with 32 microphone inputs, eight line outputs, and eight more optional modular outputs that can be selected as either analogue or AES. The desk now serves as the hub of the venue’s audio, with Windy Shores Sound extending the small Dante network already in place there to the broadcast dock and the venue’s stage box.

Chris Benson, Head of Audio for Target Center, says the addition of the S31 has made substantial differences in the venue’s audio workflow. For starters, it’s easier to handle the greater number and diversity of audio sources, from PA announcements to the arena’s game DJ to video coming from the control room with synced dialog, music, and sound effects.

“Then there’s the halftime entertainment we have at some games, like the hip-hop group that performed during the Timberwolves game last night,” he says. “There’s a lot more intersection between sports and music these days, and having a console like the S31 greatly helps. One big advantage is having many more inputs, so it can handle in-ear monitors as well as the direct sources. It just makes everything a lot easier.”

In fact, it’s also helping Benson experiment with the house sound, enhancing it by taking a feed, over Dante from the radio broadcast of games, of lavalier microphones placed on the hoops, which pick up the impact sound of the basketballs hitting the rims and backboard. “It’s easier to try new things with this console,” he says. “It also helps us make the transitions between events, such as between NBA games and the 2023 Big Ten Women’s Basketball Tournament,” which was hosted by Target Center in early March. “The DiGiCo S31 has finally completed the system upgrade that we started back in 2017 and it’s already made such a huge difference here.”

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